Narnia Part 2: How to Escape the Comparison Trap

Have you ever read anything in a book, aside from the Bible, that changed your life? Or at least, completely altered your perspective on something in your life?

I have a feeling, if we were all together in a room, this question would generate some amazing discussion. Every person would have a different answer, and every answer would have a story behind it.

leaves

While you think about yours, let me share mine.

It has to do with the comparison trap—that all-to-common tendency to focus on other people and what they have that we lack, or the ease with which they seem to get what we want. This peace-robbing, contentment-stealing hazard has popped up here and there throughout my life, but it was especially pervasive when I was struggling with infertility.

It was often difficult to see pregnant women and babies, hear pregnancy announcements, listen to moms discuss all matters relating to childbirth, walk past the baby section at Wal-Mart or sit through child-dedication services at church without getting solidly stuck in the comparison trap.

For awhile, anyway.

Then I stumbled across something in my favorite book series that made me look at pregnant women differently. And, as Robert Frost so famously penned, that has made all the difference—with those comparisons as well as in other situations where this insidious hazard threatens to snag me.

The life-altering passage I’m talking about is from The Horse and His Boy. The third book in the Chronicles of Narnia, it which traces the adventures of a little orphan named Shasta, an aristocratic runaway named Aravis, and two talking horses as they attempt to travel back to Narnia.

I was reading the book with Randy, and we had come to the part where Shasta finally meets Aslan. Shasta encounters Aslan on a foggy mountain path, but because he can’t see the lion, he doesn’t know what he is. But when he feels Aslan’s warm breath on his hand and face, he relaxes a bit and begins to share his litany of sorrows.

He tells how he had been orphaned at a young age and raised by a stern fisherman. How he had then escaped. How he and his companions had been pursued by lions at least twice, and how one lion had actually gotten to Aravis and wounded her. He tells about all the other dangers they have faced on their journey to Narnia. And he also tells about their trek through the desert and how terribly hungry and thirsty and exhausted he is.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and—”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I.”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your own story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

This conversation—especially the part about the lion pushing the boat—has taken on even greater meaning for me and Randy since we adopted Lilly and Molly. I simply cannot get through it without choking up.

But back in our pre-adoption days, it was the last two sentences that grabbed our attention and wouldn’t let go.

“I am telling you your own story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

Narnia quote 3

That, right there, is the life-changing quote I told you about last week, the one that is displayed center stage above my kitchen sink.

When I read these 18 words to Randy, a huge light bulb went on in our minds. The message was clear: The things that happen in the lives of other people are part of “their story,” and it is neither our responsibility nor our business to know why God allows them to happen.

Ouch.

And yet, what a relief!

The pressure’s gone. I’m off the hook. I really can live my life and trust that God is directing my steps, without continually getting bent out of shape by comparing myself to someone else.

Of course, it takes a lot of discipline to do this. I basically have to mentally separate myself from what’s going on in other people’s lives and recognize that what is happening to them has nothing to do with me.

The fact that my friend, neighbor or the stranger at Target has a new job (or a fancy car, great health, a zillion blog followers, perfectly behaved children, no mortgage or whatever) and I don’t does not mean that she has God’s blessing on her life and I don’t. It simply means that God’s plan for her right now includes that thing, and His plan for me right now does not.

That’s her story, not mine.

It’s a mantra I repeat over and again when the comparison trip threatens, even now, about things that have nothing to do with babies or pregnancy.

I also find it helpful to remember that just because other people sometimes seem to get what I want so easily, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their lives are perfect. The truth is that we simply don’t see other people’s lives through their eyes; we only see them from the outside. There’s always more to any given situation than meets the eye, and when we compare ourselves to someone else without having all the facts, we’re only hurting ourselves.

That’s their story, not mine.

I’ll be honest. Thinking like this is much easier said than done. But I’ve found that when I’m able to do it, it’s a very effective way to stay (or get) out of the comparison trap.

It keeps me from becoming (or remaining) bitter, jealous, resentful or depressed when someone else has what I want. Even better, it enables me to be able to rejoice with those who rejoice—and truly mean it.

Lois Flowers

A few more things: I can’t end this little Narnia series without telling my favorite anecdote about how this story has impacted my life, so check back next Tuesday for the conclusion.

Also, parts of this post have been adapted from my book, Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey (Harvest House, 2003), available here. The Narnia passage comes from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (HarperCollins Publishers, 1982).

Finally, I’m linking up today with Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory and Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith.



22 Responses to Narnia Part 2: How to Escape the Comparison Trap

  1. Yes, how true it is. We never know what is on the other side of someone’s greatest joy. Often, what we want is the thing they would give up to get the one thing we do have. You get it? Cheering your insight today from Purposeful Faith’s #RaRalinkup.

  2. Lois,
    I love that passage in that story…and also the reminder that we don’t know what goes on fully in another person’s life…Most of all, I love the reminder God is in my story and that is what I need to focus on….Funny, but my post also talks about comparison but from a slightly different angle…Blessings to you 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Dolly, isn’t it comforting to know that He is both the Author AND Perfecter (or, as I like to think, “editor”) of our faith? And I love your take on comparisons, too!

  3. What a beautiful quote and way of seeing it!

  4. Kristi says:

    I love how you charge head-on into battle when your thoughts meander off Jesus, Lois. And even more so, I am thankful how the Lord guided you into his peace in the very tough situation of infertility. I believe he’ll do this in every situation if we trust him and take those thoughts captive, turning them toward him. (Loved this series, too.)
    Visiting via #coffeeforyourheart.

  5. Christine says:

    Hi Lois … When I read your book around 13 years ago this was something that stood out for me and helped give me some perspective on my situation. (It helped, of course, that I’m a Narnia lover from way back.) I love the lesson in this, it’s so true, and it’s so liberating. Like you said, it’s easier to say than do, but like so much in our journey of faith, it’s a choice we face daily, whether to trust God, or to trust ourselves. And when we do trust God with His plan for our lives, then we can have the peace we read about in Philippians 4:6, 7, that is more wonderful than our human minds can understand.

    Since I read this years ago, I have shared this passage from Narnia, and the Biblical principle, with many others, because it’s relevant for everyone regardless of their circumstances.

    And in response to your previous post, I have so many favourite quotes, lots from CS Lewis, but here’s some that I’m thinking about right now.

    “We should not abandon faith in anything God has taught us merely because we cannot solve all the problems which it raises. Our own intellectual competence is not the test and measure of divine truth. It is not for us to stop believing because we lack understanding, but to believe in order that we may understand” – JI Packer

    There’s a lot more to that quote which is worth reading.

    I presume that Packer had read this before he wrote what he did:
    “For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand” – Anselm of Canterbury

    And one of my absolute favourites:
    Our hearts are restless until they rest in You – Augustine

    Blessings, Christine

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Hi Kristine! I would have to say that this part of my book is one of the most meaningful passages to me, too. (The sections about God’s goodness and prayer also stand out in my mind, at least this morning!) I’m glad you have been able to share it with others over the years. And I LOVE the quotes about believing to understand. That is a powerful insight, and so relevant for today! So nice to hear from you today …

  6. Anita Ojeda says:

    One of my favorite series, one of my favorite books and one of my favorite passages! I’ve repeated that thought over and over to myself many a time–and shared that scene with others as well. Fair is not always equal, and my story will never be the same as someone else’s.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I love that The Horse and His Boy is one of your favorite books, too, Anita. It sometimes seems to get lost in the shuffle among all the others in the series, but it’s my favorite, too. 🙂

  7. These are my favorite books and that is my favorite quote! I use it often to parent when the unfairness of life comes up, but I need to use it more often for myself!

  8. Jenny says:

    Wow. You have really given me a new perspective. Thank you.

  9. Hi Lois!

    Found you via @RaRaLinkup! Thanks for these wise words and for sharing a bit of your story in the Lord’s story : ) What a freeing truth that we don’t need to compare! Blessings,

    Bethany

  10. Lydia says:

    Beautiful, Lois! Thanks so much for sharing this powerful and inspiring message!

  11. Hi Lois … the comparison trap. What a trap it has turned out to be, and oh so difficult to disengage ourselves from its claws.

    Particularly in this online world we’re saturated in.

    Thank you for these words …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I know what you mean about comparisons in the online world, Linda. And since so much of what is out there is airbrushed, in a sense, it’s like we’re comparing ourselves with a mirage. Thank you for stopping by today …

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